Letter to President Obama calling for a basic income for all

As our economy continues to implode, a new solution with a long history has gained support among a group of academics, activists, and economists who gathered this past weekend at the 8th Congress of the US Basic Income Guarantee Network in New York.

Leading intellectuals such as Stanley Aronowitz and Frances Fox Piven are among those who signed a letter to President Obama urging him to consider providing a basic income to all Americans as the most effective way to stimulate the economy, increase economic equality, and promote income security for all.

The basic income is an updated version of the guaranteed annual income that enjoyed widespread support in the 1960's among leaders such as Martin Luther King, James Kenneth Galbraith, and James Tobin, and in the 1930's with Huey Long's Share Our Wealth campaign and the Townsend Plan, which lead to the creation of Social Security.

As the banks, big corporations, and insurance companies continue to appeal for billions more in federal bailout funds, there is now a growing movement of progressives calling for a bailout for the American people.

Join us by adding your name to this letter (send an email to Steve@IncomeSecurityForAll.org), forwarding it around to your friends and colleagues, or sending your own letter to the president and your members of Congress. For more information visit www.incomesecurityforall.org.

Letter to President Obama

Eighth Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, New York
March 1, 2009

Income Security Institute
PO Box 53050
Washington, DC 20009

Dear President Barack Obama:

We urge you to consider establishing a basic income for all Americans as the most effective way to stop the contraction of the economy and begin a new era of economic prosperity for all.

This bold step would provide every American with a monthly income sufficient for their basic needs. It would truly stimulate the economy, bring customers to struggling businesses, restore consumer confidence, and provide freedom and dignity to all. And as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), "the most effective solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."

As our economy continues to shed well over half a million jobs each month, there are millions of Americans in dire financial straits. We should acknowledge that the economic system that we all depend upon is inherently risky and susceptible to wild swings. It is now time to ensure a basic level of income security for all in a way that is independent of the ever-changing nature of business cycles.

A full basic income for all Americans would cost approximately $1.8 trillion according to some estimates, or we could start with a more modest proposal that costs less. The U.S. has committed to funding a host of economic stimulus programs over the past year that adds up to about $9.7 trillion, according to Bloomberg.com. More than $3 trillion has already been spent or lent thus far, mostly in the financial sector, yet there is no end in sight to the ever-deepening recession. Spending $1.8 trillion to deliver much-needed income directly to the American people is a relatively small price to pay for turning our economy around.

The state of Alaska has had a successful experience for 26 years providing an equal dividend from its oil revenues to all residents living there for a year or more. It has helped make Alaska the state with the most economic equality in the nation. There they have applied a key idea of one of the intellectual leaders of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine: the right of everyone to participate in the wealth of the nation. The basic income is also gaining support in many nations around the world, including Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Namibia, Ireland and Canada.

The members of the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG) and the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) are available to meet with your economic team to discuss this important issue. Thank you for your consideration.


Stanley Aronowitz, City University of New York
Karl Widerquist, US Basic Income Guarantee Network
Steven Shafarman, Income Security Institute
Michael Howard, University of Maine
Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy, Brazilian Senator
Frances Fox Piven, City University of New York
Nicolaus Tideman, Virginia Tech
Jason Burke Murphy, Educators for Social Justice, St. Louis University
Richard K. Caputo, Yeshiva University
Eri Noguchi, Columbia University
Jesse Johnson, Mountain Party of West Virginia
Almaz Zellekg, The New School
Michael Lewis, Hunter College School of Social Work
Harry F. Dahms, University of Tennessee
Doug Cresson, Monmouth University
Eron Lloyd, Henry George Foundation of America
Chandra Pasma, Citizens for Public Justice
Jeffery J. Smith, Geonomics.org
Al Sheahen, writer
Dan O'Sullivan, RiseUpEconomics.org
Buford Farris, retired sociologist
Sean Healy, Cori Justice
Brigid Reynolds, Cori Justice
Alanna Hartzok, Earth Rights
Stephen C. Clark, JaspersBox.com
David London, independent researcher, post-scarcity economics
Fabrizio Patriares, University of Rome, Democratic Party Italy
Reimund Acker, Netzwerk Grundeinkommen
Dorothee Shielbe Basha, Netzwerk Grundeinkommen

Tags: bailout, basic income, Frances Fox Piven, Stanley Aronowitz, stimulus (all tags)



Re: Letter to Presiden

"...there is now a growing movement of progressives calling for a bailout for the American people."

It shouldn't be framed as a negative.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-03-04 07:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Letter to President Obama

That's a good point. It's not our fault that the economy is tanking, it's the banks and the big corporations and the culture of greed. Bailout is not the right word; income security for all is what we are calling for. A $10,000 refundable tax credit for working people, for example, would stimulate the economy, eliminate poverty, protect the middle class, and help change work as we know it.

by riseupeconomics 2009-03-04 07:24AM | 0 recs
Who gets it vs. who doesn't

do the unemployed get it? At what income level do we not give it out anymore. Should there be expressed need?

Look at me for example...I'm unemployed with no source of income, but my parents are wealthy and allow me to live at home until I get myself back on my feet again. Do I get this money? I don't really need it. All I would do with it is save it, which is not what we need to do to get the economy moving.

If that money is handed out, it needs to be spent. The problem with the banks is not that we're giving them money, it's that they're not doing with the money what they should be doing in order to get the economy moving again...just handing out free money isn't going to help the economy, something needs to be done with it.

by DTOzone 2009-03-04 08:33AM | 0 recs
Obama is trying to cut disability and Social Secur

He is very concerned about the rising numbers of people seeking disability.

If we had universal healthcare, people could accept lower paying jobs or even volunteer work. But that appears to be the one thing that is off the table, at least until 2016.

Rich parents parents paying for internships should be illegal, as they are eliminating many entry level jobs for those changing careers.

Who can compete with a bribe?

by architek 2009-03-07 04:57AM | 0 recs

I thought the crying about socialism was bad now.  This would make the right (and much of the middle) go batshit crazy.

It might work in Alaska, with its tiny population, but look at what happened there: the populace remains very heavily Republican, and their government highly corrupt.

Mind you, I'm not against the living wage... it's just that the Baby Boomers who were raised to hate communism (even as some of them embraced it as rebellion) will never go for it.

by Dracomicron 2009-03-04 07:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Yikes

Yeah, that's a concern, but I've been hearing one question over and over from a lot of conservatives and a bunch of non-political types: why not just send a check to everyone? These are not socialists, they are regular folks wondering why the banks get billions and there's only $400 for us.

There are scam artists with web ads all over the place: get your $12,000 stimulus check. People are falling for it, and it feeds into a frustration that the banks and corporations are getting billions and keep coming back for more, and what are we getting?

Now that the stimulus has passed and there's funding for green jobs and construction, we can get passed the either/or argument of job creation vs. tax cuts. There's a pretty good chance we'll need another stimulus plan, and it would be great if Obama gave a big refundable tax credit to everyone making less than $250,000 a year....

by riseupeconomics 2009-03-04 07:46AM | 0 recs

They are willing to pay for access to Washington. The poor and voters should pool their money to pay for lobbyists like everybody else.

They want change, but nothing comes for free.

by architek 2009-03-07 04:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Yikes

Not to mention using Alaska as an example just doesn't work. Alaska is able to do this because it get tax revenue from oil. When oil is high revenue is high so there is a dividend to the citizens. When oil is low the dividend goes down so the amount fluctuates.

So where do the funds over time come for this program? Unless you propose taxing back to 50% on up to 90% levels.

by jsfox 2009-03-04 07:58AM | 0 recs

Maybe in Alaska, Saudi Arabia, that is drowning in oil wealth.

Why does this make sense in Wyoming, or Utah.

We can't pay for this. We have no tax revenue base to pay for this, we exported all the manufacturing jobs.  

But, I am always tickled when people bring up Huey Long....The Kingfish.

Ah, the good old days.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-04 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: No..

We have no tax revenue base for bailing out the banks, but each day that goes by brings a new story of some bank or AIG or Detroit that is coming back for more. There's no guarantee that these billions will help get our economy back on track.

A $10,000 refundable tax credit, about $800 per month, would have a dramatic impact on our economy. Sure some of it would be used to pay down debt, but if you knew you had money coming in every month, it would give you the confidence to spend without worrying about losing your job.

Our economy is contracting at a rapid pace. Providing a basic income is the only solution that could realisticly turn things around, giving a major boost to consumer confidence. 70% of the American economy is tied to consumer spending. If we don't get that going again, we're done for.

by riseupeconomics 2009-03-04 07:51AM | 0 recs
Two wrongs don't make a right....

Plus, you are talking about an ONGOING 10K tax rebate.

I think the bank bailout is a train that is going off the tracks, or already in the ditch.

But, if you think THAT had some people fighting it in Congress, my guess is, you would have maybe 1/6th of the congress critters supporting this.

Most Democrats would get off this train.

Maybe, maybe someday.

But, the boomers are still in charge.

We have been programmed to knee jerk at socialism, so this is just dead on arrival.

Start selling the millenials on this?

Maybe in 20 years, who knows....

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-04 11:01AM | 0 recs
Of course

IF this were actually to happen, Glenn Beck, Hannity, Savage, even Rush would probably have brain embolisms and drop dead right in the middle of some impassioned radio rant about the Red Menance, Mao and Marx, etc...

That would be a strong up-side to this?

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-04 07:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Letter to President Obama calling

This strikes me as a horrendously bad idea.  Back to a welfare state then, eh?  I thought we had a progressed as a movement to the point where we were lobbying for regulated capitalism, not just giving money away for the hell of it.

And don't preach to me about Wall Street getting bailouts.  You're not talking about a bailout for main street.  You're talking about an indefinite program of wealth redistribution not tied to any contingencies.  Money for nothing.

by XoFalconXo 2009-03-04 08:28AM | 0 recs
I agree..

We need microeconomies..

People should own their own homes, even if they are smaller. People should be able to get healthcare, even if it is via the Internet.

People should be able to buy drugs they need, even if it is on the free market (overseas or wherever)

The rights to us should not be bought and sold like serfs.

We should be able to work everywhere there is work, even in Mexico or China.

End the double standards.

by architek 2009-03-07 05:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Letter to President Obama

The only two names I recognize on that list are Stanley Aronowitz and Frances Fox Piven.  Don't know so much about Mssr. Aronowitz.  Frances Fox Piven on the other hand...

I remember when I was a teenager going to some academic conference with my father where she spoke, and we kept giving each other eyes trying not to laugh.  Like she had some ridiculous thesis that academia drives social progress and that you don't particularly need mass involvement at all.  I'm missing it because it was a long time ago but this was someone with their head up their ass.

Also every time she used the words "violence", "upheaval", "revolution", "destruction", etc., her eyes would light up in this funny way.  I guess you had to be there but I was faking coughing fits by the end of it and wondering why everyone else didn't think it was as funny as I did.

About a year later I had to coordinate stuff with her over the phone when I was interning at DC37, and she was rude.  "A ha!-" I thought, "a leftist who's rude to the help!  Now I really feel vindicated thinking she was a loon."

Sorry to break off on a tangent.

by Jess81 2009-03-04 08:51AM | 0 recs


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